Three Ways to Do Life

Photo by Tobias Lindman (CC BY 2.0)
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
-Romans 11:36 (HCSB)

There are three ways to do or approach life: Without God, through God, and with God.

Without God

When I view life on my own, it is just me versus all the challenges.  Many good things might happen to me, but I am left to my own means of trying figure things out and navigating life.  If I live this way, as a believer, then the Lord is distant.  I believe the Bible, but the words are not very much alive.  

When I live out life on my own, with God far away, my life story ends up being one of discontent.  I look at life through my heart, with a degree of Bible in the mix, and I end up with a dirty lens, because only God's heart gives me the clear application of his word.

Through God

A much better way to do life, is to see life through God.  When I look at God or God in Christ, it is easy to get lost, and that is a good thing.  Like the song says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus..."  The world and all the trouble in it, grows strangely dim when I look upon him.  

Looking at everything in front of you, through the lens of God in Christ, is the way to live.  Now, when life gives me a question, I don't need to try to 'figure it out', but I get to ask God about it.  All my wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, and plans are mediated by him.  No question is too small or to big, and nothing is hopeless, to God.

When I see life through God, I am continually affected by God's vision.  I am transformed, or rather, find myself in the stream of a life-long process of transformation.  When I see him and see what he sees, I am transformed.  

And, God is big on choice and personal volition.  We are called to have faith, and genuine faith is tested and acted upon.  If you believe, you will do and what you believe will hold up to the test, or you get a re-test.  Certificates of completion are only handed out after our lives here are through.

I need to say "yes", "alright", "I receive it", or "amen" continually, to the transformational process.  There is always the danger of seeing, but not being seen, or knowing but not being known.  Hiding is not living.  Just as a wedding does not make a marriage, so also believing does not make a follower.  We must learn to be married and we learn to be disciples and disciples are learners and followers.

With God

When I approach life through God's vision, then I am ready to live life with him.  I can begin to learn to do what I see the Father doing.  I can not see unless I have had the eyes of my heart transformed.

A question to ponder is, how did Jesus approach life, before his traveling ministry years?  He lived in a family and he worked at a job.  He was known in his hometown.  He probably attended synagogue services.  Perhaps he had friends.  

When I ponder his life, I want that life in my life.  I want to live a life with God, the way Jesus did.  Before his ministry began, at age 30 (Lk. 3:23), for those 30 years, Jesus of Nazareth had a life with God.  He lived with his family, some of whom did not get him (Mk. 3:21), when he began his ministry.

Jesus showed the way to have a life in God and with God, and sent his first disciples, and every disciple since, to live that life (Jn. 20:21).  The question becomes, "Have we (you and I) been sent?"  Jesus sends us on his mission in the world.  Today, we're it.  Sounds scary, but remember that that is why Jesus sent the Spirit of God, to empower us.

Having been found and saved by Jesus Christ and making him Lord, we now can live through him, with God.  And that has always been the plan for the Christian's life.

Beware of Fake Christianity

Some people espouse a life with God, but not genuinely through God.  They applaud the principles of God, like technologies to be harnessed for a better life.  They preach and teach happiness, enjoyment, success, health, well-being, and a 'winning life'.

They might also preach about doing good, fighting world hunger, and saving the earth from mankind's ravaging.  We must go into the whole world and give everyone clean water and safe shelter.  "Kumbaya", can become a song of humanism, that is a theology that dismisses the idea of evil and sin, and bypasses the cross of Christ.

Beware of bypassing your cross.  Beware of avoiding death to self.  Beware of living a pseudo-christian life that is not mediated through God, where you end up in the absurd life of 'using God', rather than letting God live through yourself, who has been surrendered to Him.

There is only one path to God, to a life with God and that path is through the cross:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. -Gal. 2:19b-21 (HCSB)
Some have said that in our western societies, we are so full of consumerism; that as Christians, we approach the Christian life that way.  We consume, like Costco members.  We pay the dues and have the card.  We shop and benefit.  We go there and bring it home.  We tell other people sometimes that we are members, especially if they mention it first.

But, that is not a good analogy of how the Christian life is supposed to be lived.  Not even close.  He gave his all and we give our all.  Jesus submitted his whole life to his Father and we submit our whole lives to Jesus.

The Life I Now Live, I Live By Faith In The Son

The way it works with him is all or nothing.  Men and women invented, and are still teaching, the 'half-way' commitment life-style.  Taking up your cross, which means signing your personal death warrant daily, is not an option only for 'super-saints', like apostle Paul.  It is a requirement, for each one of us, if we want to be a part of Jesus (Matt. 16:24, Luke 9:23).

If you are a Christian, then all of you, and everything you have, belongs to Jesus.  You are living on the mountain (Matt. 6:1) where he teaches you that God is taking care of you and living through you.  The life with God is founded upon and lived on the words of Christ (Matt. 7:24).

Jesus gives a dire warning that there will be people who pretended to live through and with God that he never knew (Matt. 7:23), who even have the audacity to claim him to others.  It turns out, that the most important thing, is your personal, intimate, honesty to God.  The authentic life we live in God springs from that.

Jesus taught us to live a life wholly surrendered to God.  We let go of everything and hold onto him.  There is no other way.

The goal of the Christian life is to live by the faithfulness of the Son of God.  It is personal.  He in you and him through you.  You in him.  

Prayers in a Time of Suffering

The Deluge, John Martin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations.  May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.
-Psalm 61

There are times of loss and suffering when we feel distant from God.  We feel like we are in a place, on earth, that is one of the furthest from God.  That is how is feels, because we are suffering.  We are tired and our heart is faint.

In that time, our prayer is, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I".  We want to be grounded on that rock that gives us solid stability.  We feel wobbly and want to feel steady again.

Feeling like you are distant from God and faint of heart is real.  David probably went through those kinds of times and later reflected about it, writing this psalm.  When we are suffering, we don't always think straight or have theological insight.

 If you feel far from God, that is normal and temporary.  If you feel fainthearted, that is normal too.  Our humanity gets tired and has limits.

Notice that, "I feel like I am at the end of the earth", and "I am fainthearted", are not followed by, "And please forgive me."  We are human.  We get stressed out, tired, disappointed, sad, angry, confused, devastated, grieved, and even suicidal.  This is called 'the human condition'.

What we do when we are there is what David's word's are admonishing us to.  We're going through suffering, warfare, a bad day, a bad week, setbacks, losses, and impossible times.  Cry out.  Pray, even when you feel like God is far off and your heart is weak.

When you are in that place, you probably will not have faith-filled, beautiful, crafted-prayers.  My prayers, when I am in that place, are whimpers and whispers, as from a person who is simply out of breath and low on energy.  My heart was faint and I felt far away from God.

God heard.

God's kindness

This is the story of a man that was the king's grandson. His dad, who was a very good man; was the king's first born son which made him heir to the throne. The grandson was his dad's first born, which put him next in line. Life could not have been better for the young man, but then things changed.

His grandfather, the king, became corrupt. He began losing wars with the barbaric tribes that surrounded their country. He also seemed to have lost the favor of the people and God's favor as well. There was another man who was a very gifted man, a fierce warrior, and a born leader; who seemed to have won the hearts of the people. He even seemed to have God's favor.

This man, the warrior, and the boy's father became close friends. I should mention that the boy's father was also a brave warrior. The boy's grandfather, the king, became jealous of the warrior man and it made it difficult for the boy's dad to be close friends with him because the king eventually wanted the warrior dead, and the boy's father could not be a part of that.

After some time, the king and the young man's father were killed in battle. The boy's uncles were on the side of their dad, the king, and wanted to kill the warrior, who seemed to be vying for the throne. The warrior's men, knowing this, killed the boys uncles and it looked like their whole families could be killed to remove any threat to the warrior from taking the throne for himself.

In this chaos, the little boy's caretaker took the little boy and began to run with him. But she tripped and the little boy fell out of her arms. Maybe he was asleep? Maybe she was running downhill on rocky terrain? She dropped him and both of his legs or feet were injured and it was permanent. He became suddenly and for life, crippled.

He made it to safety and began to live a life in hiding. A period of time went by and the boy became a man and he got married and had his own little boy. He was living in obscurity when a knock came on his door. He had been found. The warrior who was now the king had summoned him to come see him.

He might have thought his life was now over, but his life was about to improve vastly. The warrior king had been thinking about his old friend and wondering if there was anyone left that he could show kindness to from his old friend's family. He discovered that his friend's son was still alive.

The new king told him not to be afraid and decreed that he get all the land that should have passed down from his grandfather to his father and then to him. He also gave him an open invite to have dinner at the palace every night, seated just like his own children, at the king's table.
This is the story of David and Mephibosheth, from 2 Samuel 9.

This story is an illustration of how Christ comes and finds us and restores to us what was lost.

Voice Your Complaint To God

George Frederic Watts "Hope" [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hear Me, My God, as I voice my complaint.
-Psalm 64:1a

I think that it is so important that we tell God about our concerns.  If you don't "get it off your chest", it will affect your identity and your theology.  The believer who does not talk to God, letting God know what they are worried about, will end up being formed by their problem rather than transformed by God.

Your concerns or complaints are your prayers.  One translator gives us Psalm 64:1 this way: "Listen and help, O God.  I'm reduced to a whine and a whimper, obsessed with feelings of doomsday."  Are you ever so depressed, overwhelmed, stressed-out, afraid, or so hopeless; that you can only whine and whimper?  Then go ahead and whine and whimper to God.

The mistake or real failure is when we do not pray.  When we let our circumstances define us, rather than letting God transform us in our circumstances.  God is the transformer and redeemer.  God is the restorer and renewer.  God is the comforter and the giver of hope.

Our lives are designed to be authentic relationships with God, where we are, "honest to God" about our concerns.  Voicing your complaint to God is the antidote to being a bitter person who grumbles and has simmering sarcasm, because of their burnout and unresolved anger.

Grumbling, bitterness, and and anger-as-identity are sins.  Complaining, lamenting, whining, and crying to God is not a sin.  When we do not think God loves us and we do not love ourselves, we are believing lies and are walking and living in deception.

You may confuse what I am sharing about.  You might think I'm encouraging denial or delusion, as in rose-colored glasses and happy pills.  But that is not it at all.

The life we are called to is a life that involves joy and suffering.  In suffering there is comfort, hope, and encouragement.  With every negative, with every challenge we face, with every bad thing; there is a good gift from God.  Grace, hope, love, mercy, redemption, comfort, and the enlargement of your heart.  Those are a few examples.

When we except the negative as our 'normal', our 'identity', or 'God's will', or as a definition of God as 'bad'; then we miss out on the gift, the growth, the transformation, and the step up.  That is why we always need to talk to God and voice our complaint to him.  We need to get it out, off our chests, on the table, and in play, so that God can touch it.

A famous person said, "In my deepest pain, I saw your glory, and it dazzled me".  This was the quote on the brochure for the counseling school I went to.

Tell him how you feel.  Make your presentation.  Cry or rage.  Let it out.  Express your self.  To decide not to pray is a horrible deception.  Believing lies about God and about yourself is the oldest trick in the Book.  Don't side with deception, but talk to God and let your voice be heard.

God sees us and knows what we are going through, we get that.  But God wants us to tell him, because when we communicate, we open our hearts to God.  God wants to know us, as in our letting him know us by telling him how we feel and what we think.

God is relational.  Relationships were God's idea.  He invented relationship.  How can we possibly believe that God does not want to or need to hear from us, because since he is God, he already knows everything, including the future?  That is nonsense.

God is quintessentially relational.  It is not an act or a formality.  God is authentically relational and he desires our relationship to him.  Jesus came and became a man because God is relational.  Jesus sent the Spirit who is in us, because God is relational.  To not fellowship with God, which includes talking and listening, is ludicrous.

Voice your complaint to God.  Tell God your concerns.  Pray from your heart with the language of pain if need be.  Practice intimacy (into-me-see) with God.

I'm pretty sure that what God is after with each one of us is transforming us into the likeness of Christ.  He is completely submitted to and dependent on God.  He knows God's love and shows God's love.  He talked to God and so shall we.

God's LinkedIn

Photo Credit
However, Peter stood outside near the gate. Then the other disciple (the one known to the high priest) came out and spoke to the woman stationed at the gate, and she brought Peter in.
-John 18:16

God has people in unexpected places.  God has people who can help us get in to where we want to go.  God has placed people who are allied with him, along your path.  God is in our futures, preparing the path with people who will be  helpful to us.

There are people around us who are waiting to be discovered by us.  God is  more involved with all the people around us than we usually ever realize.  We just have to be available to discover them.

God has people in our future who are strategically placed.  This is how my life has worked, even before I was born; because this is how my parents met.  They were introduced through a link in their networks.  The link was my grandma, my father's mom.  God's LinkedIn!  That is just the first of many stories I could relate about God putting people in my path.

I do not believe that God controls everything, but I do believe God is in control.  As David wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps my soul alive.
He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff— they protect me.

You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the Lord’s house as long as I live.
-Psalm 23
The Lord is our shepherd, taking care of us each step and leading us.

You and I carry gifts of God.  We just need a link to connect us to those who need the gift. 

Peter wanted to follow Jesus into a place that was off-limits to him.  It was not his territory, he was not a part of the web of people there, and he had just tried to kill someone who was part of that social web.  Peter was standing near the shut gate, outside looking in.

Then, something happened.  There was a person inside the gate, who was both a disciple of Jesus and who was known to the high priest, who was the boss, the one in control of that territory or jurisdiction.  That disciple knew the lady who controlled the gate and asked her to let Peter inside.

Scholars are divided as to who this mysterious disciple was, who was also known to the high priest and helped Peter get into the courtyard.  It could be John, Peter's close brother in the Lord, or it could be someone else like Nicodemus.  It could be someone else.  Whoever it was, this person had standing inside the gate, so that they could be a link for Peter, and get the gate opened.

I believe that God will surprise us with people he has ahead, on our paths, that will be links for us to get into where we are following Jesus to. 

Worries, Prayers, and God

Even before they call, I will answer: while they are still speaking, I will hear.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late.

Then Jesus replied, "I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.

-Isaiah 65:24, Habakkuk 2:3, John 5:19

What you are worried about, God was there first and cares more about that, than you do.  He already has been answering that prayer.  So, rather than being in despair and praying desperate prayers, thank him for what he has already done and is doing.  And pray for more of it.

We don't get the idea then give it, give orders to God; but God already has the idea and is implementing it.  We need to be saying, "Lord, help me to see what you are already doing".

Get a vision, a word or an idea from God, and no amount of delay, frustration, or opposition will shake it from you.  Things from heaven are eternal.  In time, you will be transformed to fit the heavenly vision.  Watch and participate with God shaping you towards what he is calling you to.

Pray from the perspective that God is already "on the job", working in your life.  Follow the fruit, follow the blessing and ask for more.  Position yourself, like a flower towards the sun or a sail towards the wind.  Take in what God is doing.  Drink and breathe God's grace in your life.

God calls and calls and calls again.  We choose and choose and choose again.  It is a relationship between two people.  God is a person and his work in your life is personal to you.  He calls you to intimate transformation into the likeness of the Son.  

Saving Up Praise For God Who Sends Rain (Psalm 65)

"The Philosopher in Meditation" by Rembrandt

In Zion, God, praise silently awaits you,
    and vows will be paid to you.
Since you hear prayer,
    everybody will come to you.
My acts of iniquity—they overwhelm me!
    Our transgressions—you blot them out!
How blessed is the one you choose,
    the one you cause to live in your courts.
We will be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    yes, even with the holiness of your Temple.
With awesome deeds of justice
    you will answer us, God our Deliverer;
you are the confidence for everyone at the ends of the earth,
    even for those far away overseas.
The One who established the mountains by his strength
    is clothed with omnipotence.
He calmed the roar of seas,
    the roaring of the waves,
        and the turmoil of the peoples.
Those living at the furthest ends of the earth are seized by fear because of your miraculous deeds.
You make the going forth of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
You take care of the earth,
    you water it,
        and you enrich it greatly with the river of God that overflows with water.
You provide grain for them,
    for you have ordained it this way.
You fill the furrows of the field with water
    so that their ridges overflow.
You soften them with rain showers;
    their sprouts you have blessed.
You crown the year with your goodness;
    your footsteps drop prosperity behind them.
The wilderness pastures drip with dew,
    and the hills wrap themselves with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
    and the valleys are covered with grain.
They shout for joy;
    yes, they burst out in song!

-Psalm 65 (ISV)

We had rain in July yesterday. That is unusual for California, where we have been in a drought. Psalm 65 is a fine example of a song that has words in it, praising God for the rain. 

Psalm 65 is a song of praise to God.  The NIV Study Bible notes have the following entry on Psalm 65:

A hymn in praise of God's great goodness to his people.  In answer to their prayers (1) he pardons their sins so that they can continue to enjoy  the "good things" that accompany their fellowship with him at his temple (vv. 1-4); (2) as the one who established the secure order of the creation, he also orders the affairs of the world so that international turbulence is put to rest and Israel is secure in her land (vv. 5-8); and (3) he turns the promised land into a veritable Garden of Eden (vv. 9-13).  In all this, he is hailed as "the hope" of all humankind.  His wondrous deeds evoke their "fear" and move them to "songs of joy".
God's plan is to make the promised land into a lush garden.  Everything needs rain, for life to be sustained and for fruitfulness.  
You take care of the earth, you water it and you enrich it greatly with the river of God that overflows with water.

God cares about the land and brings rain to it.

You fill the furrows of the field with water so that the ridges overflow.  You soften them with rain showers; their sprouts you have blessed.  You crown the year with goodness; your footsteps drip prosperity behind them.  The wilderness pastures drip with dew, and the hills wrap themselves with joy.
I quoted the overview notes, above, about Psalm 65.  And as I looked at Psalm 65 in many translations, I noticed that some versions (The Message, ISV, CEB, AMP, GW, and Young's Literal) had a word about praise or waiting in silence, in verse 1:
To Thee, silence -- praise, O God, is in Zion, And to Thee is a vow completed. (YLT)
In Zion, God, praise silently awaits you, and vows will be paid to you. (MSG)
You are praised with silence in Zion, O God, and vows made to you must be kept. (GW)
To You belongs silence (the submissive wonder of reverence which bursts forth into praise) and praise is due and fitting to You, O God, in Zion; and to You shall the vow be performed. (AMP)
 God of Zion, to you even silence is praise. (CEB)
In Zion, God, praise silently awaits you, and vows will be paid to you. (ISV)
The writer of the NIV Study Bible's notes, offers this comment on verse 1 (Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion: to you our vows will be fulfilled.):
awaits.  Or "is silent before" (see note on 62:1; see also NIV text note here:(befits; the meaning of the Hebrew word here is uncertain)).  Perhaps the imagery is that of praise personified as permanent resident of the temple, lying quietly at rest, whom the people will awaken when they come to make good their vows (see 57:8).  our vows.  Those made in conjunction with their prayers in time of need (see 66:14 and note on 7:17: "A vow to praise.  Many prayers in the Psalter include such vows in anticipation of the expected answer to prayer.  They reflect Israel's religious consciousness that praise must follow deliverance as surely as prayer springs from need - if God is to be truly honored...")
I like this note, because we, as believers today have permanent residency in the temple.  We are often silently awaiting the time of praise.

Praise God for the rain!  It is a theological fact that God cares for the land and sends rain.  And, we have been silently awaiting God; looking forward to praising him.  Do you have praise in your heart, that is waiting on God, to give to him?

We are the priests today, who pray and praise, who receive and give comfort in the waiting room, that is the temple of God.  Californians have been praying for rain, natural rain and spiritual rain.  We praise God today for the rain we have had and pray for more rain.  We'll keep praying for that, for the drought to be over.

Living In God - Psalm 91:1

"jump in the dark" by Georgle Pauwels CC BY 2.0
The one (Whoever, He , He) who (whowho)lives(dwellslivestakes refuge) under the protection of the Most High(in the shelter of the Most Highin the shelter of the Most Highin the secret shelter of the Most Highdwells in the shadow of the Almighty (will rest in the shadow of the Almightywill be safe in the shadow of the Almightylodges in the shadow of the Almighty).
-Psalm 91:1 (HCSB, NIV, VOICE, Berkeley)

I was looking at Psalm 91 this week.  I saw some key words in various translations.  There are four translation, color coded above.  

One thing I noticed, when transposing these four translations, is that we see "dwell" twice, once at the beginning: "Whoever dwells... will rest in the shadow..."(NIV),  and, "The one who lives... dwells in the shadow"(HCSB).  These two "dwell's" are two different Hebrew words, that I think mean two different things

It is, perhaps, dwell vs dwelling.  I dwell around something- my favorite store, park, game, or thoughts.  But, my dwelling is my house, my refuge, or the place I lodge in.  I was looking up what the Hebrew dictionary says, and I saw the word lodge for what the second of these two "dwell/dwelling" words mean ( יָשַׁב yashab (yō-šêḇ) & יִתְלוֹנָֽן luwn (yiṯ-lō-w-nān)).  It looks like the first one does mean dwell, as in "hang out", while the second one is a place to stay: lodging to spend the night.

By the way, I am not a Hebrew nor Greek scholar, but just a student and a learner.  I recommend that you dig into the Hebrew and Greek for yourself, and not take my word for it.

I found the Berkeley Version (1959), because the scholars there did the translation, "lodges in the shadow of the Almighty".  The reason it is called Berkeley is because that is the city of the publisher, period.

What I have learned, is that if you make it a goal to live your life in God's presence, which is a secret shelter for you; that you will end up lodging - sleeping, taking up residence, in God's shadow.  
He who dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Dwelling = hanging out or intentional focus in your heart while you are doing other things.

In the secret place = it is invisible, private, intimate, and hidden.

Of the Most High = it is God's presence that you and I have access to.

Shall abide = shall dwell as in dwelling as in live in as in housing, lodge there, as spend the night in a safe house.

In the shadow of the Almighty = under God's eyes, in his presence, under his protection, and shadowing God speaks of following as close as you can for nurture and safety.

Psalm 91 is a prayer for protection, for safety against enemies.  It is very beneficial to be living this way when you face all of the difficulties of life.  You may very well get away to a secret place, geographically, like the ocean, the wilderness, or your prayer closet; to seek God.  

But, what Psalm 91 teaches is that we can have a life in the world, among other people, some who are unfriendly to us, and even our enemies; where we live in the secret place of the Most High God.  I can be in the kitchen cooking, on the freeway among unsafe drivers, and even have someone verbally or physically attack me; while all the while I am living in God, dwelling and lodging in His and my secret place.

As a child of God, you have available to you the presence of God that you can turn into and turn towards any and all the time.  If you live this way, it will obviously affect how you respond to others and your inner workings as take in other's presentations.  

It's called walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:17).

Unless You Remain in Me

"la vigna" by Francesco Sgroi CC 2.0
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.  Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you.  Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.   “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
-John 15:1-5

Let me tell you a story, about a married couple.  After many years of searching for true love, a lady found a man.  And that man had been searching for that very lady, for her whole life, and he finally found her.  At least it seemed like that to him.

When they found each other, that long wait no longer seemed like a long trial, because they were so happy to have found each other.  The man adored the woman and the woman was in a continual state of bliss.  Their wedding was a joyous occasion, as they say, and it really was.

The man wrote their vows, that the woman agreed to and they said these promises to one another, in a church, in front of their closest friends and their families, some who traveled from far away, to share the couple's joy.

After their honeymoon, they settled into married life.  They both were not kids, but mature adults; and they both thought they knew how to be in a marriage.  After some time, they discovered that getting married and being married are two different things.

Being married takes a bit of work.  You can never take your husband or your wife, for granted.  The man and his wife found out that they needed to continuously hold onto each other and the covenant vows of loyalty that they once made with joy.

The married couple found out that they needed to continually recommit and decide again to be married, mostly in their hearts, but sometimes out loud.  The man thought it sounded silly to say, "will you marry me?", to his bride, over and over again; but that is how his genuine love for her was.  And each time he said that, she said, "Yes", as she did that first time.

What does that story have to do with this passage in John 15, where Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener"?  Jesus then talks about his father's activities of cutting off or pruning branches.  He then makes this statement:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The key word here is, 'Remain'.  Other popular translations have the word as 'Abide'.  It literally means, "hold onto each other in a living union".  It is not like installing a pipe that you weld, screw, or glue in and then it remains.  It is like a marriage where the couple are in union, but that union has to be continually recommitted to, nurtured, and celebrated in intimacy for it to grow and be fruitful.

So the question becomes, "Are you in this kind of a living, dynamic union with Christ?"  As a branch can not bear fruit unless it is attached to the vine, so it is with Christ-followers.  We all want to be fruitful, and the only way to be fruitful is be in living, dynamic union with Christ.

For anyone who immediately thinks of grapes and wine, and therefore sees an allusion to Eucharistic language or symbolism here; the wine created (if created) in this vineyard setting, would come from the grapes that are the fruit in the disciple's lives in union with Christ.  It is an interesting thought that there might be wine produced from the fruit in our lives, that we joyfully serve to one another.

Jesus initiates the life we have in him.  Our union with Christ is started by him and is kept by him:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:16)
But, it is we who maintain our lives in him through love and obedience.  That is our part to play.  Our union is actively kept by our actions of love and obedience to his words:
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:10-12)
Only in Christ can we live authentically.  In him we can bear fruit in service to God, in answered prayer, through obedience and his love.  In him, we become his friends and are untied with other believers in his love.

"Remain in me", he says.  "How?", we ask.  Through obedience and love.  You are not in union with Christ, if you love, but do not obey.  Nor is it possible to be united with Christ through obedience, without love.  We obey him because of and through his love, demonstrating our love for him, on a daily basis.

We joined or got joined to him, when we initially received salvation, and now, we keep joined or keep staying joined through obedience and love.  Our love and obedience, that keeps us in union with Christ, does not happen in a vacuum, but is an 'echo' or continuation of Jesus' reciprocation of the Father's love and calling upon him:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.(John 15:9-10)
We can not obey him unless we love him, and we can not love him unless we have received his love for us first.  Our obedience is to a person, who is love, so love empowers obedience.  Obedience is only genuine or authentic, when it is in Christ, in union with his love.

Today, we have people who are big on obedience or even big on church, and small on love (John 3:16 love), who are not in union with Christ.  They embrace 'christian religion' or 'churchianity' rather than the 'crazy love' of God.  They are not living in dynamic union with Christ.  So, their lives have no fruit.

There is another group of people who are all about love.  They are all about not being judgmental and being loving.  They are so loving that they don't believe in the cross of Christ and his redeeming of repentant sinners.  Their love is self-centered love.  They take their love and project it on God, rather than bowing to God's redemptive love in Christ that calls us to his cross and to taking up our own crosses.  So, they as well, have no fruit.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
Jesus takes the vine metaphor, which usually refers to Israel (see Isaiah 5:1-7), and applies it to himself.  That is what we believe he meant by saying, "I am the true vine".  He now adds that his disciples are the branches, and the Father is the person (husbandman or gardener) in charge of the vineyard.  The Father cuts off branches that are not in union with the vine and prunes those that are.  Those of us who have fruit trees or vines know that pruning the branches back will bring more fruit in the next season.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
The bearing of fruit is simply living the life of a Christian disciple.(Barrrett, p. 474)  If we are in Christ and Christ is in us, as we live out our lives, we will bear fruit.  Then the question becomes, for the Christian, why would you not daily and hourly choose union with Christ?  Do you imagine that we have a propensity to claim Christ, but continually wander from him, not abiding, remaining, or being in union with him?

Jesus says that there is an action involved in our volition, to choose to stay joined, to continually rejoin him.  The branches do not create the fruit.  The vine does.  Get it?  Our 'job', our 'activity', our faithfulness, is to stay in the vine, period.  He created the fruit.  He produces the produce.

If we try to live life without Jesus, not being in union with him, we will fail miserably.  Our failure will be an unfruitful life.  We might seek to 'save the world' in a hundred ways, but have no fruit from Jesus, because we have not been in union with him.  To be in union means to love and to obey, and then we become a part of his plan, already being implemented, to save the world.

When Jesus says that his father cuts off unfruitful branches that bear no fruit, he is not talking about losing your salvation, but unfruitfulness.  Branches are the shoots, sprouts, or canes of a vine, where you find the fruit.  We are accustomed to seeing these with all the grapes attached.  When the farmer sees these unfruitful branches on the vine, taking the vine's life, but with no fruit, he cuts them off.

The Father cuts off and cuts out the parts of our lives that are not bearing fruit.  If you are a Christian, this will happen to you, and it is normal and good.

"Prunes" means cleans.  The original word here does not mean prune and was never used as prune elsewhere (Morris, p 594), but since the context implies 'prunes', many translations seem to have translated it, 'prunes'.  The word actually literally means 'cleans'.  And 'cleans' means 'purify' or 'purges'.  I noticed that the King James has 'purgeth'.

Have you been purged lately?  If that is not a word you use, then 'cleansing' is apt.  It is a good thing to be purged or cleansed.  It means you have borne fruit and God is helping you get ready to bear more.

People get cleansed.  Jesus' words cleanse us (John 15:4).  The word here is the verb form of the adjective used in verse 4.  Vine-dressers prune, but Jesus literally said 'clean'.  The Father takes the fruitful part of our life and purges, purifies, or cleanses it, so that it becomes more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
The 'word' that has cleansed us is the message of salvation, that he brings, and in himself is.(Barrett, p. 474)  Taking Jesus 'all in', into our lives, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."(John 6:53), is what he is after.  'All in' is not an option, but the only way.  We are not cleansed by doing something, but by his words of life.

Jesus' call to each one of us is, "Follow me".  'Me' means him.  He calls each one of us to himself.  Many are doing things, doing what they would call ministry, but rather than following, they take the lead, in their lives.  What about being in union with him, abiding, remaining, continually joining themselves to him?  Jesus says that we will not have his fruit if we don't obey him and love one another.

Outside of union with him, nothing works.  As the body cannot function without the head attached, so also the Christian life cannot function without being continually joined to Christ.

Cleansing comes from Christ's words and Christ's actions.  His words are still active today, and his word's meanings are revealed by his active word.(Barrett, p. 474)

The good news is that some of us are clean, like the guys Jesus originally spoke this to.  We are clean, in this moment, but there will be more life, another season, and we will likely need another round of purging.  Jesus is saying, in a sense, "You don't need it right now, but purging or cleansing from the Father is normal, after you have been fruitful, so you can pretty much expect it."  But, at this point in their relationships with Jesus, they have been cleansed by his words.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Only if we abide in him, will he abide in us.  It is a mutual relationship, that only works when there is mutuality.  "The Christian life is unthinkable except in union with Christ."(Barrett, p. 474)  This union is not exactly like a vine and a branch.  That is a metaphor that would mean, "loyalty and fellowship that would continue as they obeyed his word".(Kruse, p. 317)  The 'remaining' that is the union, is predicated on our obedience.

The branch in the vineyard has no choice, but to be remain in the vine.  But we, as metaphorical branches must choose to remain, through our obedience.  So, we can go too far with the metaphor, saying that we are in union with Christ and remaining in him, when we are not, because we don't have the love nor the obedience.

The vine does not depend on the branch for life, but provides the branch with life, so that the branch may bear fruit.  Today, Christ remains, or joins us, as we join him, in the person of the Spirit.  Disciples remain in Christ by obeying his word and Christ dwells with his disciples through the Spirit, and this results in fruitfulness.

According to Kruse (p. 318), there are two common interpretations of what the fruit here is: 1. Righteous living, and 2. New converts.  Kruse suggests that the 'fruit' here is more than these, and refers to, "the entire life and ministry of those who follow Jesus' teaching and experience his presence in their lives through the Spirit."

Morris (p. 595) notes that in verse 4, it is an imperative, "(You must) remain in me, as I (must) also remain in you."  If you ever have the attitude that Jesus does not need you and can just get it done without us, by his Spirit alone; this verse flies in the face of that notion.  He is saying, "To get it done, you need me and I need you".

If we do not remain (abide, share constant contact) with him, then fruit will not come.  That means no good kingdom stuff.  The fruit of the kingdom is zilch when the Christians do not nurture their relationship to The Savior

If we don't abide in him, through loyal, faithful obedience; he can not abide in us.  In the Bible, God is looking for that one person that will will be obedient and abide in him, that he can use (2 Chron. 16:9, Amos 9:8).  This is something astonishing about how God prefers to work.  He needs a person to partner with.

Our remaining in Christ is our part of an ongoing, mutual relationship; like two people that walk together.  It means continually recommitting to a decision we once made, in fidelity and loyalty.  The only way to stay in the relationship, is for it to be continually renewed.

The couple who found out that being married is a continual choice, a dynamic union, where each one expresses their love and recommits to that love they have for the other, is a picture of the believer's relationship to Christ.  It does not work if we don't work at it.  Jesus can not or will not remain in us, if we do not remain in him.

Imagine a wife who's husband ignores her.  He does his own thing usually.  They might be married, but don't have much of a marriage.

He might get dressed up to take her to dinner or get dressed down and demand sex once a week.  He gets real friendly and charming at these times.  But if you could hear what he's saying, he mostly talks about himself, his problems and his questions about the future.

It could have been the other way around, in that vignette.  The woman could have been the selfish one.  But, it is a picture of a dysfunctional marriage.

The couple I talked about at the beginning gets it.  They get it that the relationship has to be nurtured.  It is a union, but unlike a pipe, it is a dynamic union.

It's like holding hands with your loved one.  Sometimes you hold tight, sometimes loose.  But you hold that hand, especially when you go up or down steps where there is no railing.

I believe there must have been vineyards all over the place, when Jesus spoke these words about the vine, the branches, and the fruit.  They all knew about vines, branches, fruit, and the work of the vine dresser.  He told them that it will be just like those branches for them.

As a branch can not bear fruit if it is not attached to the vine, we also can not have God's fruit in our lives if we do not stay attached to Jesus.  Staying connected to him is something we do, not just something we are.  We do it because of who we are and if we don't do it, it is questionable who we are.

Staying connected to your wife or husband involves acts of love like listening and sharing your heart.  The dynamic union in marriage is also expressed through sacrificial love.  We make sacrifices and endure suffering for each other, because of our loyal, covenant love.

A grape vine without grapes is something that a gardener does not want and a life that claims Christ, but has no fruit is something we don't want either.  Fruitfulness comes from being with and in the living Christ.  He is hear now, by His Spirit,

We are as close to Jesus as we choose to be.  We each actually modulate the relationship.  You can shut off all those distractions and he is there for you, twenty-four hours a day.

If you ignore him, he is unable to touch you and give you invigorating life.  He is waiting for you to open the door of fellowship.  If we do not intentionally connect with him, then we will have not fruit in our lives.  One by one, those unfruitful branches will be taken by Father, until we are left with a stump of a Christian life.

It does not have to be that way.  But if it is, we can always start over and have a new beginning, and sprouts will form into branches that will bear Christ's fruit.

TNICOTNT, The Gospel According to John, By Leon Morris

Unless I Wash You

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
   The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
   He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
   Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
   “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
   Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
   “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
   Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
   When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
-John 13:1-17 (NIV)

Have you been washed by Jesus?  And, have you been so personally ministered to by him, that you know you are clean, and you know you are his?  And, have you been humbled by his gracious intimate love towards you?  Jesus' washing of the disciple's feet gives us the example to follow of voluntary, humble, selfless service.

Washing peoples feet is something you did not do, unless they were your children or it was your wife or father.  People had servants who would do this work, and Jewish people would reserve this low work for Gentile servants.  It was the lowest act of service.  As an act of extreme devotion, followers might wash their master's feet; never the other way around (Kruse, p. 280).

The washing of the disciple's feet, by Jesus, occurs during the meal.  Jesus took off his outer garments, and began washing each man's feet.  It must have put these men in stunned silence, until Peter could not hold back and had to say something, when his turn came.  You may be a person like Peter, who can't help but speak up and say, "wait a minute", or "this isn't right".  Peter literally said, "Do YOU wash MY feet?"(Barret, p 440).

Peter is in the very bad position of refusing a profound gift of love and service.  Imagine saying to Jesus, that you are happy to be in his church, to be part of his group, and that you would even die for his cause; but you don't want him touching you, you don't want him too close.  It is a strange kind of pride to refuse a great gift.

Jesus is stern when he says to Peter, that if he does not allow him this intimacy, if he does not receive this act of love and service, then he can not be a part of him.  Today, if someone has the attitude that they don't need Christ's washing, they are saying they don't need Christ.  The whole reason he came was to cleanse us.  So, it becomes ironic if that person says they are a Christian.

To enter into fellowship with Christ we must be washed.  We cannot belong to him unless he has washed us.  And we must belong to him.

It sounds humble to say, "You don't have to do that", to Jesus; but it's really pride.  Pride says, "I will wash myself".  Proud people do all kinds of washing of themselves, but that is not what Jesus wants.  He wants to wash us.  Unless he touches you and cleans you, you are outside the kingdom.

Washing each others feet is not a sacrament or a ceremony, but a picture, a lesson, or an illustration of the command from Jesus for us to love one another in humble service.  It is also more than an ethic for, a test of, or a guide to humility.  We must wash one another's feet, figuratively; after we have been cleansed by Christ, because this is his command that we love one another.

We learn here, that no one who has not been cleansed, can be in the fellowship of Christ.  Unless he cleanses you, you have no place in him.  There is no belonging without this cleansing, that comes through Jesus' blood shed on the cross (1 Jn. 1:7).

The message or lesson in Jesus' washing their feet is that we all need to receive the cleansing that Jesus brings to us through "his self-humiliation on the cross"(Kruse, p. 283). Before he washed their feet, they understood him to be their teacher and Lord. After his washing their feet, he wanted them to have a new understanding about the teacher and Lord that he is: a servant.

Jesus' statement, "Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him", is that his followers, starting with the apostles, are to be servants, following in his footsteps of servant-hood.  "If their Master and their Sender does lowly actions, then they, the servants and the sent messengers, should not consider menial tasks beneath their dignity.  This saying (with variants) is found on four occasions (here, 15:20; Matt. 10:24; Luke 6:40; and cf. Luke 22:37).  It was evidently a saying that Jesus loved to repeat"(Morris, p. 552).
Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus imparts knowledge by coming along side, showing and telling, until we know it.  But, it is not enough to know it.  We are only blessed if we do what we know.  This is one of the two beatitudes in John (the other is 20:29).

Artwork above, Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, by Ford Madox Brown

The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text, By C. K. Barrett
The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary, By Colin G. Kruse
TNICOTNT, The Gospel According to John, By Leon Morris

Unless You Repent

Painting by Yoram Raanan;;
Luke 13:1-5  Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Luke 15:1-7  All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”

So He told them this parable:  “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it?  When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders,  and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’  I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance."

A couple of questions for you:  Do you need to repent, and is repentance an event or a process?  I think repentance is a place we visit frequently.  Isaiah 30:15 says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation", which to me, means a place we visit frequently.  But, Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free", which seems to mean that we don't live in, 'getting set free", but in, 'freedom'.

There are people out there who assume it is God's will when people die in accidents or are killed tragically.  And there are people who don't think they need to repent.  Jesus' word is that we all need to repent.

Jesus would say the same thing today about any disaster, whether from nature or from a homicidal maniac, who takes lives.  He would say, "Unless you repent, you too will perish."  Jesus sees us all as sinners.  We all, in the human race, are sinners; no matter what kind of collar we wear, or with whatever other measure you might use; we are all sinners.

We either were sinners and have repented, are repenting, and are repentant, or on the other hand, we still are sinners and need to repent.  Those are the two categories.  We can get vicariously involved with the question of tragic deaths, but the real question for each of us is, "Have you repented?".

Repentance means 'turn away'.

The context of Luke 12:1 to 13:9, is preparation for the coming judgement.(1)  Jesus does not comment on any link between these tragic deaths and sin, except to say to the living, "No, but unless you repent, you too will perish".  Jesus says that these folks who died were no more sinful and no more guilty than the average person there.  I believe the same applies today.

The word 'repentance' is used by Jesus again, two chapters later.  He says that there is more joy in heaven, over the one sinner who repents, than over the ninety-nine righteous ones.  The point is that the ninety-nine think they are righteous and don't think they need to repent.  They are out of touch with the fact that they are lost.

All of us are lost without the living Christ.

George Ladd wrote this in his book, A Theology of The NT, (p. 56):
Even Israel, the people of the covenant, are lost; Jesus came to seek and to save them (Mt. 10:6, 15:24; Lk. 19:10).  When Jesus said that he did not come to call the righteous but sinners (Mk. 2:17) or when he speaks of the righteous who have no need of repentance (Lk. 15:7), he does not mean to say that there are some who are actually righteous, who do not need repentance.  He is only reflecting the view of religious Jews who considered themselves righteous and did not heed his summons.
Ladd then quotes Kummel:(2)
It is His intention to tell His opponents who see themselves as righteous rather than sinful, that His call to salvation is directed precisely at those who are ready to listen to Him because they are aware of their sinfulness.  His opponents' mistake lies in the fact that they exclude themselves from insight into their own sinfulness, whereas Jesus presupposes that all men, including these 'righteous ones', are sinful.
Heaven does not rejoice over smug self-righteousness.  Heaven rejoices over a sinner who repents.  Repent is an essential part of the message of Jesus, that is the gospel.  The gospel, the message of Jesus is, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel"(Mk. 1:15).

Kingdom of God means 'rule of God'.  Because the rule of God has invaded earth, through Christ, we need to repent and believe.  The Kingdom of God, "is in reality the transcendent order beyond time and space that has broken into history in the mission of Jesus"(Ladd, pp. 58-9).

When we experience the in-breaking of God's rule and reign, it is natural to repent, to turn away from sin.  But, repentance is a choice.  We are constantly tempted to distract ourselves from the "I-Thou" intimate relationship with God and all the other relationships that require authenticity.

The people in the story from Luke, wondered about the people who died.  They wondered about God's relationship to those people.  They wondered, just like we wonder, about suffering and God.  Is God powerless to stop it?  Or does he choose to allow it?  Or does he cause it?

'Why?' is the wrong question.  The Bible does not explain the 'Why?' or the 'Why me?'  The book of Job teaches that personal suffering is not always the result of personal sin.  The Hindu doctrine of karma, which says that one suffers because of their previous sin is completely false.

Suffering can be due to sin, our sin or another's, because sin brings suffering; but all suffering is not due to our own sin.  Suffering can and does come from Satan and his organization.  Suffering also comes because we are human and feel pain, physical and emotional.

Suffering also happens because of the freedom of our environment.  People are free to sin against each other, through negligence or evil behaviors; and nature is also free, within the parameters set by God, so that we have floods, hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, and tsunamis that cause suffering and death, that is neither sent by God or brought on by our sins.

Conversely, God can strike people with suffering, like when he made Zechariah mute (Lk. 1:20).  Jesus told a man that he healed to, "Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you"(Jn. 5:14).  Paul told the Corinthian Christians that they were eating and drinking in such a way as to be bringing judgement upon themselves; becoming weak, sick, and dead.(1 Cor. 11:30)

A cold, hard statistic is that over 99% of people end up dying and the Bible tells us that 100% of people need to repent.  When we look at other people's tragedies and wonder about them and God, the real issue we are avoiding is ourselves and God.

Unless you repent, your fate will be worse.

Being in the place of, 'not needing to repent', is one of the worst places that a person can be, spiritually.  Looking down on others as 'sinners' is a foolish position, because we are all sinners and perhaps the worst sin is pride.  Pride was Satan's sin that caused him to fall; and maybe that is his favorite sin to bring people into: arrogance, hubris, and narcissism.  The great sin, which is a great lie, is to think that you are better than others.

Many lost people know they are lost.  They might even say that they know it and are not ready to quit.  Jesus says to quit now, before it is too late.  Then there is another group of people, perhaps a much larger group, who do not know they are lost, but they are lost.

Imagine going somewhere and you are lost, but you do not know it.  The one who realizes they are lost, but does not want to be, will be looking for the right way and be willing to ask for help and get directions.  But the one who sneers at the lost ones who are being found, and says, "I'm good",  "I've got this", or "I'm covered", and yet, they are deceived; blind and deaf to the fact that they are lost.  What hope is there for them?

1. Word Biblical Commentary, 35b, Luke, John Nolland, p. 719
2. Man in the NT, W. G. Kummel, p. 18
3. A Theology of the New Testament, G. E. Ladd, pp. 55-9

The Painting above is by Yoram Raanan;;